BELLFLOWER, Calif. — High school football competition in California has been sidelined for over a year.
This month, however, counties like Los Angeles and Orange were given the green light to get back on the field after adjusted case rates met new state guidelines — at or below 14 per 100,000.
It won’t be a full season, but for St. John Bosco High School Head Coach Jason Negro, it’s something to celebrate.
“It was just exhilaration and excitement and I was just so happy for all of the student athletes in California to have an opportunity to get back on to the playing field and to do something they loved," said Negro. "That’s something to really shout about and I’m looking forward to coming out of that tunnel and watching these kids compete.”
Across town, Sierra Canyon, the team Bosco will be facing as the season kicks off, was also getting ready. To junior offensive lineman Kenji Swanson, putting the pads back on made him feel like football was back.
“Now it really feels authentic, it feels real. Before we were practicing going 100% but we didn’t know if we would actually have a game. It’s real now, we all can’t wait,” said Swanson.
The Sierra Canyon Trailblazers have become one of the powerhouse programs in all of Southern California under the direction of Head Coach Jon Ellinghouse, who has built the program from its inception and is ready to keep climbing the ranks this season.
“It’s been a long road, and the kids, it’s been a lot of mental anguish on them, said Ellinghouse. "But we’re excited to be back out here, and the kids are excited."
The team’s return to the gridiron will be against the reigning national champions, St. John Bosco. But for the two coaches, this season goes beyond the scoreboard.
“Right now, it’s not about trophies. It’s not about rings, hanging banners, and things like that. A win for us was to be able to play as many games as we possibly can,” said Negro.
It will be a different season for both programs to be sure, but one that will play out under the same familiar Friday night lights.
For more information on youth sports guidelines, visit: cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/outdoor-indoor-recreational-sports